One of the hardest things I've found about being a parent is trying to explain to my kids about the horrors and frightening deep mysteries of life--things like evil in the world and unspeakable tragedies, like 9/11, and even the routine but still frightening reality of mortality. No one likes to be the one to pass on to their child these legacies, to shatter the magical illusion that life is beautiful and innocent like a fairy world or cartoon land. Or that it's a storybook-come-to-life, days like multicolored pages that stretch on and on and on.
The traditional advice about just telling it like it is is, I think, the best advice out there. We parents have the hangups about how to tell and when to tell, and our kids end up picking up the uncomfortable vibe these conversations project. We've found that it's often simpler and better to just tell the brutal truth about things, without the sugar coating and the sidestepping that ring warning bells for children and tell them that maybe they should be worried. Still, with L., who is so sensitive and anxious, we have always had to consider the timing and method for talking about these disturbing topics. When pets die, it's the perfect opportunity to discuss the cycle of life with kids, but how do you explain willful and monstrous acts of tragic proportions? How do you explain airplanes crashing into buildings and fields? The answer is simply that I don't think there is any "good" way to explain these things--or at least I haven't found a way.
So yesterday, on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, L.'s class talked a bit about it all, just as they did last year, in second grade. I steeled myself again for having to talk about that day with the kids--and with T. who at 4-1/2 is much more conscious of such conversations than she was a year ago. We talked a bit about it after dinner, but it all exists in the abstract for my kids. L. was just 15 months old when it happened, a round-legged toddler still unsteady on his feet, and T. was just a cloudy soul in the sky, waiting for her time. I'm glad it's abstract for them, though. I'm glad that I can shoulder the burden of that day for them, and that they'll never have to remember what it was like that day, seven years ago. I hope they never will have to know a day like that in their whole lives.